Somewhere far above a dusty arena played host to a truly bizarre spectacle. An amphitheatre of ruins encircled a desolate ring of dirt. At the center a beast was squatting in a deep hole, still digging, and cast out the various bones he found which fell at the feet of the two great apes who stood and watched.
One of these apes, the larger of the two, sable black with a streak of silver on his crown, bent low and retrieved the bleached white skull of a silverback mountain gorilla.
“Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him well…” The line was cut short as a thundercrack rang through the air and the brute collapsed with a smoking, great hole between his temples.
Overlooking them on a raised pedestal King Grodd reclined in a vast throne of jagged stone. The stolen, oversize pistol that had one belonged to the criminal known as the Joker was still hot in his hand.
“‘Horatio,'” he noted, sullen and bored, “the line is ‘Alas, poor Yorick. I knew him, Horatio’.”
The gathered crowd trembled in hushed fear and two larger apes dragged the corpse out of the stage just as the understudy came to take his place.
Grodd was wildly intelligent. He was ruthless and cunning. And, above all, he was bloody fed up.
“Alas, poor Yorick,” began the new, younger gorilla, tentatively picking up the dropped skull “I knew him… he swallowed hard before carefully announcing …Horatio.
Grodd grunted in mild approval. The show must go on.
“My liege!” the mindless chattering of an enhanced chimpanzee was heard as it bounded through the palm trees that encircled the Grand Theatre.
Grodd was starting, though he would not admit it, to regret ever having begun experimentation upon other apes. Chimps were maddeningly childlike and sycophantic in their pitiful attempts to avoid persecution and the orangutans were staunchly aloof and sceptical. Both were far too much like humans for his liking.
None the less the little chimp landed before him and bowed lowly, scraping its muzzle against the dirt.
Grodd grunted loudly and turned his face to the warm, midday African sun.
“Oh most fearsome and unconquerable Grodd, I bring news from the Outer Guard.”
The chimp waited for permission to continue but Grodd seem distant and uninterested. He took this as a sign to resume his chatter. “My Lord, we have come across intruders and, well…”
The Supreme Ruler of Gorilla City and the Continent of Simia raised his mighty left hand and the little mammal was silent, along with all gathered.
“First of all,” he began in a voice like gathering thunder “why have they not been killed yet. And secondly…why does this concern me.”
“Well, my liege, my sovereign, I…they…perhaps if you saw what they wore…”
“What they are wearing? This is my concern?” When Grodd stands the mountains bow. So says the law of Simia. In reality it is merely every ape within his vicinity who can see him and any he can watch and judge in return.
He pulled the red cape tightly about himself. It was a token from a triumph over the hero known as Steel. It bore the golden shield of the House of El. Few remembered who it belonged to and so his reputation was increased.
About his head the revered tiara of a fallen Amazon glinted in noonday glow. Its shape evoked a golden variant of a laurel wreath. He was the Caesar of Central Africa. The Nero of Nigeria. The Herod of Hairy Hominids.
There is a reason he dominated an entire continent and came out unscathed. And it was not delegation.
“My Lord Grodd,” the chimpanzee shook and looked at the mighty silverback’s toes, “we have reason to believe they are…superheroes.”
The word caused an explosion of elated laughter to burst from the king’s lips and all other gorillas joined in. Save the former Hamlet who was still gathering flies.
“My, my…perhaps this wont be a wasted day after all. Tell me: who are they?”
“We, we do not recognise them. They are young. Perhaps pupils or protégés.”
“Good, good. Maybe we can execute them live on air and incur the wrath of some real foes to fight.”
As Grodd descended from his throne he motioned toward the messenger who had born such joyous news.
“You should know however, young chimp, that the summer and the slaughter has left us all with somewhat of a limited supply in terms of fresh meat. Due to your honourable services however I shall not devour you. Know then that Grodd is merciful.”
And with that the King began to walk away toward the City Palace.
“Thank you, my King,” the diminutive chimpanzee replied, even as vast shapes surrounded him and blotted out the burning sun.
As he closed his eyes and began to focus his super-enhanced telepathic mind upon one of the team of young defenders Grodd chuckled darkly to himself before adding “I can make no promises about my subjects however.”
Redbird shook her head. It felt like it weighed a million tons. It was cold where she was, which for being in Africa was odd. She finally tried to open her eyes. All she saw was gray stone in front of her. The room was dark. “Hello?” She called out quietly.
“Another fine mess you’ve gotten us in.” The voice came from the black across the room. It was pained and dry, but still managed a stitch of sarcasm.
Artemis took a heavy breath, wincing with that biting sting that came as she did. It was her throat. She could still feel the strong finger marks that closed tight around her neck. Even though it hurt to, she sighed.
The archer squinted, half because of the purpled bruise that swelled around her left eye. It was no good. She couldn’t see Redbird. When she came to and got no response, she’d thought they’d been caged separately. Knowing now that they hadn’t brought a bit of smile to her face That would be their first mistake.
“I think we’re under ground,” she said in that rasp, somehow knowing Redbird would be wondering the same as she had.
She looked down at the heavy chains that latched to her wrists, following their thick rings a few feet to where they disappeared into the darkness. “You alright?”
“Fine.” Redbird answered as she stood up and surveyed the room. “And this is my fault how exactly?”
Artemis heard the rusty sound of chains across the room moving. For a brief moment she considered reading her the riot act for sneaking off. She thought about explaining that operating like a team means making sure your team knows what’s on your mind before you disappear like a shadow. She could hear it all in her mother’s voice. “Nevermind.”
She shifted. Her fingers wrapping around the metal. It was built to hold apes, and one link filled her hand. That hadn’t stopped her from futilely attempting to pull them from the walls. “We’re up a creek, here.”
She tested her eye. It still hurt. So did her jaw. And her arm. She began to think it would be a smaller list to determine what didn’t hurt.
“They have PeeGee… somewhere. The boys are still free.” She wondered how long that would last. Her arms draped over her tented knees. “We have to play this careful.”
Redbird didn’t answer. The blonde still wasn’t a hundred percent from their run in with Merlin, and her capture by the gorillas didn’t exactly help matters either. She could feel the fire in her ribs cut into her breathing, not that she was gonna show it to Artemis.
“Where are the Atlantean and the civilian?” Redbird said curtly as she ran her hand along the wall of the cell.
“I’m not Madam Xanadu,” Diana groaned. “Free. In the jungle somewhere.” She flexed her fingers feeling the muscles strain in protest. “I told them to get clear from the ambush and cut off any attempts for the apes to pursue.” She paused a beat. “Or Casey.”
That knot of guilt started to tighten in her chest. She had pulled Garrett down into this, let them drag Lagoon Lad along. They had dropped two rookies, if you could even call them that, into a hot zone and then been forced to abandon them in the African forest near Gorilla City with Grodd in control.